3D Printing also known as additive manufacturing is a process of producing a three-dimensional object by adding material layer by layer in a highly computerized manufacturing environment.
3D Printing is considered to be one of the most advanced manufacturing techniques in the manufacturing industry today. It is significantly known for being in line with the industry 4.0 revolution where digitalisation and automation are valued the most. Many of the manufacturing industry giants like GE, Ford, Siemens, NASA, TESLA, TATA, WIPRO, etc., have embraced and adapted this technology to their regular manufacturing processes.
With advancements in the technology and new 3D Printable material development happening on a constant basis, the scope of the technology is widening massively. 3D Printing is permeating every manufacturing industry and has become a complementary tool to optimize the current manufacturing processes.
In my perspective, below are various ways in which 3D Printing helps in manufacturing
- Rapid Prototyping
- Highly Complex Designs
- Reduce Production Time
- Manufacturing Of Customised Products
- On Demand Manufacturing
- Mold Manufacturing
- Less wastage of raw material
- Automated Manufacturing
Prototyping is a continuous iterative process of testing designs & assumptions till the most satisfactory output is obtained. Rapid prototyping is essential for Engineers, Scientists and Inventors to test their product inventions and innovations. RPT in the traditional manufacturing methods is highly time consuming and less cost-effective process. Also, the work order has to be given to third-party vendor and liaison with the vendor to get the desired output is a lost productivity for the company.
With 3D Printing, one can print and test his designs without leaving his desk and without liasioning with third party vendors. Also, it is highly cost effective and takes less time when compared to other manufacturing techniques.
Industries like the automobile, electronics, and appliances manufacturing have high demand for rapid prototyping due to the high consumer demand and higher competition for innovation. Thus, 3D printing will enormously help those manufacturing industries in need of repetitive and rapid prototyping.
HIGHLY COMPLEX DESIGNS
Not all types of designs can be made using traditional manufacturing methods. In Medical and aerospace industries where sometimes complexity in the design is the key in order to achieve high functionality, 3D printing technology has the edge over the traditional manufacturing methods like CNC machining, forging, casting etc., Organic, Mechanical and Hybrid designs can be manufactured in 3d printing without losing their core functionality. Art and artefacts industries are one industry in which complexity in design is very high and 3D printing plays a major role in manufacturing those complex designs.
REDUCE PRODUCTION TIME
When compared to traditional manufacturing, 3D Printing will highly reduce the product lifecycle both at the design level and production level. Automobile, aerospace and medical industry are where the complex assemblies are needed for a component to achieve its full functionality. Thus, components which require complex assemblies to form a complete object can be manufactured as a single part using 3d printing. Design for additive manufacturing will be used where the complex design is achieved by maintaining the full functionality of the object. And, 3D printing is known for manufacturing highly complex designs. This way 3D printing will reduce the production time and product lifecycle of manufacturing a component.
MANUFACTURING OF CUSTOMIZED PRODUCTS
3D printing is most suitable for customized production. In traditional manufacturing, it is very expensive to produce customized goods whereas in 3D Printing, it is lot cheaper. If we take medical industry, customization plays a prominent role in producing parts like Hip implants, dental implants, cranial implants etc., The product is customized according to the particular patient’s body anatomy.
ON DEMAND MANUFACTURING
Aerospace and defence industries require production of parts on demand. Considering the portability and requirement of less space, 3D Printers are used for on demand manufacturing of components. For example, manufacturing of turbine blades, impellers, propellers etc., can be made then and there itself as soon as the requirement has occurred. Companies like GE, Siemens have already tried and tested 3D Printing for on demand manufacturing of components. The medical industry is another segment where patient specific on demand manufacturing of implants is the need of the hour and can be achieved using 3D printing Technology.
In most of the manufacturing methods like Injection molding, die casting, sand casting where mold making is the key, production of mold is too costly and the cost can’t be justified if volume required is low. In such cases, one can go for 3D Printing of mold. 3D Printing of mold is very cost effective compared to traditional manufacturing. Also 3D printing enables the production of highly complex molds unlike traditional manufacturing methods of mold making where complexity is still a question.
LESS WASTAGE OF RAW MATERIAL
As far as traditional manufacturing methods like CNC Machining is considered, wastage of material is high as subtraction of material is involved whereas 3D printing has less or sometimes no wastage of material because of its additive nature. Additive manufacturing avoids material wastage by adding raw material where it is only required.
In business perspective, automation of manufacturing not only saves cost but also time. With respect to industry 4.0 revolution where digitalization and automation are considered as the key constituents, 3D printing stands at the forefront of automated manufacturing. Most of the 3D printing technologies need less or no human intervention. Research is being carried out in order to further increase the automation of the manufacturing process. Infusion of technologies like Artificial intelligence, internet of things and machine learning can be considered for complete automation of manufacturing process zeroing the human intervention.
Manufacturing as a process had only incremental improvements in the last few centuries but the process of mold as an input towards manufacturing end product remained the same. 3D Printing technology is disrupting the fundamental concepts of manufacturing by enabling a mold-less manufacturing set up. While there are various limitations for the technology (speed, range of materials and so on), it is rapidly evolving. In another 10 years time, the technology will become main stream and be part of the shop floor of every manufacturing company.
“Better late than never, in adapting to the 3d printing technology because it is the future”